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Mass. AFL-CIO aide launching run for state Senate

A top political hand and lobbyist at the Massachusetts AFL-CIO is launching a run for state Senator Eileen Donoghue’s seat, saying he anticipates that the longtime lawmaker will step aside.

John M. Drinkwater, a Lowell resident, is running after years of roving the State House as the influential union’s legislative and political director.

His name is the latest to surface in the race to succeed Donoghue, who confirmed she is a candidate for the Lowell city manager position. She’s widely considered the front-runner, but the Lowell Democrat has yet to be selected or vacate her seat.

Drinkwater said he hasn’t spoken with her, but he’s banking on her leaving.


“I am running with the expectation that this is going to be an open seat,” the 34-year-old said Monday. Asked how he arrived at that, he said he’s “working off some political reporting that I trust and put a lot of faith in.”

He said if Donoghue ultimately decides to seek reelection, he’d pull his name from the race.

A father of three, Drinkwater has been with the AFL-CIO since 2006, first as an intern, and, since 2014, as its legislative director. He’s been a registered lobbyist since March 2012, making $84,880 last year, according to records with the secretary of state’s office. He also oversees the organization’s political field program and its efforts to back labor-friendly candidates.

Now, he intends be one.

Drinkwater has filed papers with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance and pulled nomination papers in order to gather signatures. He’s also created the Twitter account @Drinkwater4Sen.

He said he doesn’t intend to leave the AFL-CIO, but rather campaign in his “spare time.”

“I haven’t got to a point to evaluating, at what point, I might transition to campaigning full time,” he said. “I’m still focused on doing my full-time day job.”


He said he intends to run with a focus on labor-friendly issues, as well as better funding for public schools.

“I’m not quite at a point in pursuing the organizational endorsement,” he said. “But I’m hoping my colleagues in labor who I have been working with for a long time will be supporting me in this race.”

Steve Tolman, the AFL-CIO’s president, said he’s spoken with Drinkwater about his interest in running, and offered high praise Monday.

“This man is the most honorable man I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “Lowell would be very lucky.”

Donoghue has not yet resigned. Her name has also been included with those who’ve floated interest in vying for the Senate presidency, a powerful post that can shape the direction of the State House.

But last week, she confirmed she is a candidate for her hometown’s city manager. A former Lowell mayor and city councilor, she’s widely considered a top choice for the job, where the current manager, Kevin Murphy, makes $190,000 a year.

The City Council has said it expects to name his successor by April 1, Murphy’s final day, and it is scheduled to narrow its list of finalists Tuesday.

But the potential for an open state Senate seat has made for much political speculation in the Merrimack Valley. Lowell City Councilor Rodney Elliott has said publicly he intends to seek the seat, and former city councilor Bill Martin has also filed papers indicating he’ll run.


Republican John MacDonald has already launched a campaign.

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